Obama Confident In Asia Trade Pact, But Track Record For Deals Is Spotty : It's All Politics Following a South Korean trade pact in 2012, the U.S. deficit with that country widened by 80 percent. But some argue that if the U.S. doesn't create trade rules, there won't be any.
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Obama Confident In Asia Trade Pact, But Track Record For Deals Is Spotty

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Obama Confident In Asia Trade Pact, But Track Record For Deals Is Spotty

Obama Confident In Asia Trade Pact, But Track Record For Deals Is Spotty

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in other news, President Obama says he's confident he'll get a green light from Congress to move forward with a big Asia-Pacific trade deal. Obama discussed the deal yesterday with the prime minister of Japan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The politics around trade can be hard in both our countries. But I know that Prime Minister Abe, like me, is deeply committed to getting this done. And I'm confident we will.

MONTAGNE: Obama is facing stiff opposition, and it's coming from his fellow Democrats, who complain past trade deals haven't lived up to expectations. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The president's argument to skeptical Democrats boils down to trust me. Obama said repeatedly he would not be pushing the Asia-Pacific trade deal if he didn't believe it's good for working families.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: I've got some good friends who are opposed to this trade agreement. But when I ask them specifically, what is it that you oppose, they start talking about NAFTA.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: And I'm thinking, well I - I had just come out of law school when NAFTA was passed.

HORSLEY: Obama insists he's learned the lessons from that decades-old agreement. And he says the proposed Asia-Pacific deal would pry open markets long closed to American products, especially Japan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: And you look at all the cars that are passing by. You'll see Hondas. You'll see Toyotas. You'll see Nissans. Those are all fine cars, nothing wrong with that. But when you travel to Tokyo, you don't see Fords.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You don't see Chevys. You don't see Chryslers.

HORSLEY: Obama made much the same case three-and-a-half years ago, when he was pushing another trade deal with South Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers.

HORSLEY: At the time, Obama boasted the South Korea deal would boost exports to that country by $10 billion a year. But since it took effect in 2012, exports have inched up less than $1 billion. Meanwhile, U.S. imports of Korean goods have surged more than $12 billion. Robert Scott, of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, argues just as rising exports helped to support American jobs, rising imports can put Americans out of work.

ROBERT SCOTT: Looking only at exports is like counting only the runs by the home team. It might make you feel good, but it doesn't tell you the outcome of the game. It doesn't tell you whether your team won or not.

HORSLEY: The U.S. trade deficit with Korea has widened more than 80 percent since the deal took effect. Scott worries the Asia-Pacific deal will just bring more of the same.

SCOTT: My answer is show me the money. Explain how this policy is going to reverse the 30-year trend of stagnant, real wages for most working Americans.

HORSLEY: The administration notes two other trade deals struck by the president, with Colombia and Panama, have produced a bigger boost in exports. Jeffrey Schott, who's with the pro-trade Peterson Institute for International Economics, adds there are also strategic reasons to support the Asia-Pacific deal.

JEFFREY SCHOTT: The president's talking points are a little off when he says if we don't write the rules, China will write the rules. Actually, if we don't write the rules, the rules won't be written.

HORSLEY: Schott warns that could lead to more protectionist moves by other countries, erecting even higher barriers to goods and services made in the USA. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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